Very soon, fans will forget that WACA was once a fast bowlers’ paradise. A venue where visiting teams dreaded playing the most, the fear of facing pace at Perth is a thing of the past.
In the last Test played here, New Zealand got two double hundreds in the innings. On Tuesday, the venue’s glorious reputation was dented further after batsmen held total sway in the opening one-dayer of the Australia versus India series.
The home team emerged victorious in a game where eight wickets fell for 619 runs. The Indian supporters would have fancied their team’s chances after it amassed 309 for three. However, the manner in which Australia cantered home, with five wickets to spare, hit home the point that the ground has been transformed into another batting paradise in the era of white ball cricket.
Notwithstanding the big gap, and the long flight from Mumbai to Perth, the game seemed an extension of India’s last one-dayer played at the Wankhede Stadium, where South Africa ran up a score of 430 plus. Rohit Sharma would have felt like playing at his home turf, and he made the most of the placid track to smash an epic, unbeaten 171. To his luck, Steve Smith (149) and George Bailey (112) eclipsed his effort with a record 242-run third wicket partnership, carrying Australia past the target.
While Rohit and Virat Kohli (91) put on a batting treat, displaying their silken touch in an entertaining 207-run partnership for the second wicket, it never seemed to rattle Australia. The only thing their otherwise perfect batting line-up lacked was the ability to explode in the period from 41 to 45 overs when Australia restricted them to 32 runs and picked up a frustrated Kohli’s wicket.
Exceeding expectations, India were provided a terrific start in bowling by young pacer Barinder Sran. Under the most testing conditions for bowlers, the lanky left-arm bowler prised out both openers inside his first three overs. He should also have removed Bailey first ball but umpire Richard Kettleborough failed to pick after the batsman gloved down the leg side, to make another case against India’s reluctance to accept the Decision Review System.
Australia, even after a disastrous start, never looked under any pressure. Bailey and Smith knew exactly how to respond to the situation. No undue risks were taken, and instead the focus was on rotating the strike. It was a gameplan that neutralised India’s main weapons, spin duo R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, to knock the wind out of their sails.
With Ashwin having knocked off one opponent after another at home with remarkable ease, all eyes were on him to conjure up some magic and apply pressure on Australia. There was no turn on offer, but he had bounce to use besides his vast arsenal of variations. Suprisingly, Ashwin and Jadeja both turned up listless performances, conceding 68 and 61 runs respectively in nine overs each. Unable to stop the flow of runs, the offie was often drifting on to the pads to allow easy pickings.
Australia were in complete control by the halfway mark and in the 26th over of the innings, Bailey and Smith took Ashwin to the cleaners, hitting him for a six each down the ground in addition to a four. In five overs, Ashwin’s figures read none for 48.
It was a poor effort from India’s ace spinner. Rookie Sran (3/56) had showed you could do well despite the wicket if you bowled in the right areas.